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Titans Rally Past Saints


The Tennessee Titans did not score in the first half. Not to worry, they are making a habit of coming back.

And besides, they were playing the New Orleans Saints, the masters of the second-half collapse.

The Titans (5-1) rallied to win in the second half for the fourth time this season, while the Saints (1-4) lost a second-half lead for the fourth straight game in Tennessee's 24-21 victory Sunday.

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Game Summary

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  • "It wasn't pretty," Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher said. "It came down to the wire like we expected. But the bottom line was, we felt regardless of what we did starting on Wednesday through this afternoon, we have to find a way to be 5-1 on the off week, and we did."

    Jason Fisk, a 300-pound defensive tackle, and cornerback Donald Mitchell intercepted passes in the closing minutes to secure the outcome as the Titans continued their best start since 1991, when they opened 7-1 as the Houston Oilers.

    The Titans took their first lead of the game on the first series of the fourth quarter when Neil O'Donnell hit Kevin Dyson for an 11-yard touchdown that put Tennessee up 14-13.

    With 5:12 left, Fisk grabbed a pass from Billy Joe Tolliver on the Saints 19 and returned it to the 10. A flag on Saints safety Scott Slutzker for piling on gave the Titans a first down on the 5, but the Titans stalled and Al Del Greco kicked a 19-yard field goal to put Tennessee up 17-13.

    "In a situation like that, getting an interception, it kind freezes you," Fisk said. "Yo see the ball and think, 'Oh my, I can actually catch that.' And I did."

    On the Saints' next offensive play, Mitchell intercepted Tolliver and returned it 42 yards for a touchdown, making it 24-13.

    "They called man coverage and all I did was break under," Mitchell said. "As soon as I caught the ball, it was wide open."

    The Saints, outscored 51-8 in the fourth quarter this season, then drove to their first fourth-quarter touchdown of the year when Tolliver hit Lamar Smith for a 4-yard score with 45 seconds left. Tolliver also passed to Brett Bech for the two-point conversion.

    "It's frustrating. You go out there, you got 53 guys battle all day, you make two bad throws that determine the outcome of the game," Tolliver said. "Every game in this league comes down to two or three plays, and those were the two plays."

    Tennessee had just 280 total yards and 15 first downs. The Saints had 409 yards, but offset those with 13 penalties for 103 yards.

    The Titans, after setting an NFL record for 212 yards in penalties last week, had eight for 75 yards against the Saints.

    Tennessee's first score of the game came in the third quarter when O'Donnell completed a 4-yard pass to Lorenzo Neal to cut the Saints' lead to 10-7.

    O'Donnell, who threw for six touchdowns in four starts coming into the game, was 0-for-10 with two interceptions until he finally completed his first pass with 4:16 was left in the first half. He finished with 12 completions on 25 attempts for 124 yards and two touchdowns.

    Eddie George, who had just 277 yards rushing in Tennessee' first five games, rushed for 155 on 28 carries against New Orleans an average of 5.5 per carry. Fellow Heisman winner Ricky Williams gained 35 on 17, an average of 2.1.

    Tolliver, making his first start for injured Billy Joe Hobert, completed 28 of 45 passes for 354 yards.

    The Saints took a 10-0 lead at the half, scoring on a 24-yard field goal in the first quarter and a 10-yard touchdown pass from Tolliver to Slutzker in the second quarter.

    Another touchdown pass, from Tolliver to Andre Hastings, was called back by a penalty with 1:36 left in the half.

    But a combination of penalties and miscues killed the drive as Williams ran for no gain on first-and-goal, and the final 12 seconds ticked off.

    Notes

  • Titans LG Bruce Mathews extended his NFL leading streaks of consecutive games played (189), and consecutive games started to 186. Matthews has started every game since mid-1987.
  • The Saints had three or more sacks in five consecutive games going in, but that streak ended Sunday as the Saints only got one sack.
  • Sunday's game featured a meeting of the last two running backs to win the Heisman Trophy. Eddie George won in 1995 when he was at Ohio State, and Williams won last year at Texas. With Saints QB Danny Wuerffel, who won in 1996 at Florida, three out of the last four winners were in the Superdome.
  • Oilers coach Jeff Fisher played for Ditka with the Bears from 1982-84.

    ©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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